How many ways are there to eat sweet potatoes? More than you might think. Beyond simply baked, or pureed in a lush soup, they can be found in jap chae, the Korean stir-fry made with sweet potato starch noodles. Sweet potatoes in the form of soju, a Korean vodka, are even becoming part of the ongoing cocktail craze. Rolan Reichel and Anlie Han's RoHan Lounge in San Francisco serves soju in Mings (with grapefruit, lemon and lime juices and Campari) and Happy Families (with coconut syrup, pineapple and orange juices and a splash of grenadine).
Yams vs. Sweet Potatoes
What's the difference between a sweet potato and a yam? True yams, native to Asia and Africa, are rare in the United States; they are scaly, with a dry, starchy taste. What is marketed in the U.S. as a yam is really a sweet potato, a tuber native to the Americas, with a moist orange or pale yellow flesh. The mix-up may have started when American slaves began calling sweet potatoes nyami, from a West African word meaning to eat. A few letters were lost and nyami became yam.
Salute to a Superfood
"Nothing even comes close to the amount of beta-carotene in sweet potatoes," says Mike Cannon, a professor of horticulture at Louisiana State University. Not even carrots have as much beta-carotene, an antioxidant that may help prevent strokes and certain kinds of cancer. The news gets better: After evaluating 50 vegetables for overall healthfulness, the Center for Science in the Public Interest ranked sweet potatoes near the top. In addition to beta-carotene, they're loaded with fiber and vitamin C and are virtually fat-free. Plus, a six-ounce serving delivers nearly 10 times the U.S. recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. So what's the best way to get more sweet potatoes into your diet? "It's simple," says Cannon. "Stop saving them for the holidays."
The Beauty of Yams
Lancôme's Absolue Night moisturizes the skin of the face and throat with a blend of soy, sea algae and extract of wild yam root, which American herbalists have used for two centuries to help ease symptoms of menopause ($115 for 2.6 ounces; 888-282-6060).
Jurlique's Wild Yam Lotion, another product touting the root's medical benefits, can supposedly relieve cramps and bloating from PMS ($54 for 3.4 ounces; 800-854-1110).
Dermalogica's Intensive Eye Repair cream contains wild yam and vitamin C to help smooth fine lines ($37 for 0.5 ounces; 800-831-5150).
The Oconee Mud Wrap at the newly opened Spa at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation, in Greensboro, Georgia, combines local clay with wild yam, elderberry, juniper and sage to exfoliate skin ($175 for 90 minutes; 706-467-0600).